There was quite a bit of driving to do today so our breakfast was early, and less time consuming than usual. When leaving Paula I felt like we were leaving an amazing person. She is involved with programs that benefit the youth of the area, as well as programs that just benefit the towns in County Donegal; Ardara, Glenties, and Donegal. She is a peaceful change agent and particularly proud of the open nature of Ardara. She will be a treasured memory.
We planned to get to the northernmost point of Ireland today before heading down into Northern Ireland. That would be Malin Head. It continued to rain or mist throughout the day so our views were considerably restrained.
We took the main roads all the way to Burt before heading up the R239 and R238 toward Buncrana. We passed along Lisfannon Beach located along Lough Swilly in Fahan. Famous as “Amazing Grace Country” it was after a perilous journey that ended in Lough Swilly that John Newton wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”.
From there we continued on up the peninsula to a signpost outside of Malin indicating that Five Finger Strand was off to the left. There was a lovely little church and graveyard on the same corner so I stopped to take a picture. In moments, two “attack dogs” were doing their best to convince us to let them in the car. No going fellas. But since we’d never been to Five Finger Strand, we took the detour of discovery. We drove a
short distance down a 2 track lane before we reached a barricade in the road that forced the parking of the car. As we hiked down to the water, we notice a no trespassing sign to our right indicating: Private Property, Keep Out, Poison Laid, Electric Fencing, and (in case we weren’t scarred enough) Dangerous Animals! Five Strand Beach was lovely even in the drizzle. A small creek empties into the bay and the sandy beach goes in both directions. We enjoyed the view before walking back to the car and again crossing paths with the “Dangerous Animals”.
From there it was straight away to Malin Head. Even with the low visibility, gale force winds, and precipitation this was a noteworthy spot. In white rock spelled out on the side of one cliff was “EIRE 80”. We’d seen several of these stone signals along the coasts. They were installed during WWII to let the Germans know they were flying over neutral Ireland and not Great Britain. The tower at the site was one of many built along the coast in the early 1800s to serve as watchtowers during the Napoleonic War with France. They were later used during both World Wars and remnants of bunkers still exist. In 1902 it was set up as a Marconi radio site.
Malin Head is famous these days as another filming location for Star Wars. The filming on Skellig Michael was only permitted for one day. This location was used for any additional shots not captured on that single day. It was a bleak day to be visiting, that’s for sure.
Leaving Malin Head we saw signs for the “northernmost bar in Ireland”. Taking the wrong turn we ended up at the pier which was rather interesting, before we eventually found our way to Farren’s Bar. We were warmly welcomed by the excellent bartender who explained the Star Wars filming to us. There was memorabilia in the bar and an enlarged photo of the bar owner with Mark Hamill. She said the crew was there several week before the filming began but, added wistfully, “Oh that weekend was some good craic!” Bill discovered an excellent pale ale here called “Bog Hopper” brewed in Donegal. It’s billed as an “American Pale Ale”. The bottle was so cute we took it with us!
We had wondered if the Brexit issues would have any impact on our travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It did not. After some distance we crossed over the River Foyle that empties into Lough Foyle and avoided driving into Londonderry (referred to as “Derry” in the Republic). There is a ferry that crosses from Greencastle much farther north, directly to Magilligan Point; however, it had not yet opened for the season. Using the navigation system on Bill’s phone we found our way to our lodging in Portrush.
We scored a tidy, clean, one-bedroom apartment just two blocks from the highest rated eatery in Portrush for the total sum of 87 Euros! A washer/dryer all-in-one was also included. We were able to wash enough clothes to hold us until we got home. That being said, it took hours to do two small loads. Once the first load was agitating, we headed off to The Quays (pronounced “Keys”) for dinner. We watched various horse races while we dined. Bill got an excellent beef and Guinness pie with tender chunks of beef.
The main street into Portrush is lined with row upon row of B&Bs, or self-catering apartments to rent. It’s almost as though they were expecting a population boom that never happened. We booked our stay through AirBnB and never saw the owners. It was easily 11:00 p.m. by the time the last load dried and we headed to bed.